Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Forgiveness Resources for Faith Communities & Families

On this Valentine's Day, I'm reminded of the best marriage sermon ever. It's a 10 point sermon with just one point: forgive. While Jesus' words in this coming Sunday's gospel about loving enemies may instinctively call up imagines of political opponents and/or citizens of countries we fear, the best marriage sermon ever reminds us that marriage, also, is one of God's gracious means of giving us enemies to love. 

I mean that last part humorously and truly, but not cynically. After all, to call someone my enemy is not to say that it is their fault and not mine we are enemies. Our conflict may expose my own difficulty in loving that which I don't control or loving beyond the boundaries of my personal self-interests. Moreover, to take Jesus seriously, to call someone my enemy is to clarify the nature of a faithful response to them; it is to commit to love them. 

Most people don't want to have enemies, much less love them. But if the naming of enemies is the first step toward love and forgiveness, maybe our reticence to have enemies is a kind of guarantee that they stay that way. Maybe the naming of enemies, in the spirit of Jesus' commandment, is a kind of moral achievement, if it calls us back to the work of forgiveness and love. 

Dietrich Bonhöffer and Jean Vanier have both said that the main work of the church, the community of faith, is to forgive and be forgiven. But it is sometimes hard to know how to prioritize this work. Remarkably, Dr. Robert Enright, professor of educational psychology and founder of the International Forgiveness Institute, is working to help faith communities, schools, and families normalize and constructively engage the good work of forgiveness. With his permission, I am sharing links to some of his resources at the end of this post.

If you or your faith community would like to commit to cultivating a culture of forgiveness in your context and utilizing aspects of Enright's work, would you comment here or otherwise let me know? I am working with him to help communities of faith become "Forgiving Communities," which is to say communities that publicly express their intention to live forgiveness, so that we can become resources to one another and others who might benefit from the example of those who are a few steps farther down the road.

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All resources by Dr. Robert Enright, shared in the hopes of identifying faith communities that might resource one another and others:

The Church as Forgiving Community: An Initial Model is a wonderful resource for developing a culture of forgiveness within a church.


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